Changes eyed for Southgate's parking program

To assist area employees, City Council looks to add portion of El Camino Real to Residential Preferential Parking district

For Southgate resident Keith Ferrell, the neighborhood's new residential-parking program is off to a great start.

The narrow streets once served as parking lots for Palo Alto High students and employees from a handful of medical businesses on El Camino Real. That changed in December, when the city began fully enforcing the new Residential Preferential Program, which limited parking to two hours for cars without permits.

Now, with a parking-occupancy rate of about 22 percent, the streets are safer and parking is easier, Ferrell and other neighbors told the City Council on Monday night.

"The streets are lovely now, like they were when I moved here -- and my kids can roam the streets freely," Ferrell said.

The view is starkly different from the suite of Dr. Michael Papalian, who works at Plastic Surgery Center, one of several medical businesses at 1515 El Camino Real. The new program allows up to six permits for each Southgate resident. But for the dozens of plastic surgeons, nurses, anesthesiologists and other medical professionals who occupy the building, it allocates a total of 10.

The 10 stalls in the building's parking lot are generally reserved for patients, which means employees have long parked on the streets. Now, most can't get permits and have a hard time finding parking.

With so many spaces now open on a street outside the office, Papalian argued that the council should support a recommendation from transportation-planning staff to add 15 more employee permits to the program. He reminded the council that the streets are public and that the city's own surveyors confirmed the low parking-occupancy rate.

"Just because residents raise their voices, doesn't mean it's right, doesn't mean it's fair," Papalian said.

The tussle between residents and businesses created a dilemma for the council. On the one hand, council members sympathized with the workers and deemed their concerns reasonable. On the other, the city didn't start fully enforcing the one-year pilot program until December. Most residents at Monday's meeting argued that changing it so early in the process is counterproductive.

The council found the latter argument persuasive and balked at making any immediate changes. Instead, council members opted to wait another six months before reassessing the program.

But in a nod to the employees, the council also supported expanding the Residential Preferential Permit district to the west side of El Camino Real, with the idea of making those parking spots available for area employees.

Some council members said that adding a small number of employee permits won't make much of a difference to Southgate's parking situation. Councilman Greg Scharff said doing so would be a good way to support valuable resident-serving businesses.

"I think we need to resolve this without losing the businesses," Scharff said. "I think we need to be sensitive. ... They've been here a long time and I don't know how we can just say that they can't park here."

Councilman Adrian Fine agreed and argued that the impact of the proposed change would be minimal.

"Our city is made up of residents, businesses and nonprofits and we have an obligation to serve all of them," Fine said.

Others, including Mayor Liz Kniss and Councilman Greg Tanaka, echoed the residents and said it's too soon to change the program. Kniss said she feels "very strongly that the pilot should have at least some length of time."

"Four weeks is a really short period of time," Kniss said.

Thus, the council settled on a solution: leave the permit system the way it is and steer the employees to the west side of El Camino. The council voted unanimously to direct staff to craft a resolution designating the segment of El Camino across of Southgate as part of the parking district.

Because El Camino is a state highway, the council will need approval from the state Department of Transportation (Caltrans) to make the change. Assuming Caltrans approves, the city would then proceed to release an additional 15 permits to the workers.


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7 people like this
Posted by Bike Commuter
a resident of Ventura
on Jan 30, 2018 at 8:43 am

Bike Commuter is a registered user.

If Council is serious about reducing traffic and climate change impacts from autos, they shouldn't agree to every request for more free parking (more business permits in RPP zones), larger parking garages (Cal. Ave.), and wider roads that encourage speeding and discourage biking (Ross Rd.).

I streamed the meeting and didn't hear the staff from the medical offices mention any efforts to promote alternative transportation such as car pooling, transit or bicycling.

15 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 30, 2018 at 10:54 am

Online Name is a registered user.

The medical practitioners on California Ave. got short-changed on parking permits, too.

28 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 30, 2018 at 1:31 pm

Annette is a registered user.

So now we are going to send these employees across El Camino where they MIGHT find a parking space amongst the dozens of trailers and mobile homes that are parked there for days. How generous of us.

This is yet another example of the huge MESS we have created for ourselves by over-approving commercial development. For residents, employers, and employees who do not live here, Council's deference to developers is more problematic than it is beneficial.

Isn't it about time we stopped digging this hole bigger?

3 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 30, 2018 at 2:17 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

@Bike Commuter

First of all, I congratulate and commend you on being a bike commuter, and yes, some of those employees might be within biking distance, but I say 'might' because that is very doubtful, in my mind. And for most people, if transit and car pooling are practical solutions that will make their commutes easier, they will do it. People working in those professions are not stupid. In fact I'll go a step further. Anyone working in Palo Alto isn't stupid. I'm guessing that the employees at those medical places of business don't have those opportunities available to them without some hardship, e.g., longer commute times, less flexibility, etc.

I know it is the thinking and goal of the most fervid Palo Alto supporters of an auto-less city, to take punitive measures against current car owners, but especially against those who drive into our city. That is so wrong. And while CC is at it, ask the residents that are being protected by the RPP ordinances to give up their cars. Oops, I forgot, they are probably not a good idea if you seek future political careers in 'my town'. The time will come when it evolves naturally without rules and regulations to force it to happen now. There is a new era ahead of us, when all-electric and autonomous cars will be the norm, and Uber, Lyft, and all the other easy and timely transportation services will be cheaper and more available through competition. That will take care of a large part of our current problems, including parking. Parking garages, as we know them, might become unused relics, behemoths, modern day mastadons, rising into the sky. But, that will open up another great opportunity for razing, and then raising, affordable housing projects. Transit? Good transit? Don't hold your breath on that one.

And now for an example, without giving a name. My dentist lives in Half Moon Bay and commutes to her office on Alma St in PA. There is no transit available for that commute and it's very doubtful that car-pooling is a possibility either. She has shared with me that the backups at the 280/Page Mill Road interchange causes a half hour or longer drive from that point to her office. What is that? I'm guessing...4 or 5 miles at the most!! What is the solution to that problem? Some will say "just tell her to move to Palo Alto so she'll be closer to her office". Brilliant! Good thinking there..not! Why do you think she lives in Half Moon Bay? How is it that we have some of the brightest people in the world coming up with the dumbest ideas on how to solve our local problems. I shouldn't cast blame because most of the problems don't have solutions without added taxes and upheavals in people's lives. But what is most disturbing is that politicians, running for office, make it sound so easy and that they have the right solutions to our problems, and along with that, that our quality of life won't be impacted. No, I won't lay the "bridge for sale" trip on you readers, but only because I don't have one for sale. But, with another election cycle coming up, let's be more active and ask hard questions of the candidates. No lobs...only 90 mph fastballs, sliders, sinkers, or those huge breaking curve balls. Some of our politicians are great at throwing those curve balls. lol! C'mon all you CC members. Lighten up...if you know me at all you know my tongue is in my cheek, at least 10% of the time.

Believe it or not, I caught the end of the CC meeting Webcast when a little time was given to the ADU issue. I'm done ranting for today but I'll have more to say on that issue later. We have a great CC. I criticize them a lot when they make decisions that don't agree with mine. Anybody willing to spend the time poring over 500 page packets, and prepping for a meeting that goes past midnight, as last night's did, are either crazy or very dedicated citizens. I vote for the latter because I know some of them, and I know they're not crazy.

And it's fun watching the familiar faces (won't mention names) speak at the beginning of CC meetings. Those people, who are my age or older, and who go, faithfully, to those meetings every week, and speak, are the true dedicated long time residents of our community. They are always serious but sometimes add humor, which is a welcome relief at CC meetings. And they are always welcomed, acknowledged, and politely thanked for speaking by Mayor Liz Kniss. She's a good mayor, but she should be, having had a lot of practice at it. I fuss a lot but I still love 'my town', even though it is almost unrecognizable from the town we moved to in 1961.

12 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 30, 2018 at 2:58 pm

Thanks to Gale for answering the points raised by bike commuter.

I think it is excellent that so many people use their bikes to commute but it is not for everyone.

As I was out this morning I saw an example of a bike commuter riding faster than I could drive along Middlefield. I caught him up at San Antonio. His bike and the gear he was wearing probably cost quite a bit of money, he was probably fit and could probably ride quite a distance for his commute.

At the same time on the stoplight at San Antonio there was another bike stopped waiting for the light to change. He was obviously much older, on an older bike, and did not look like the type to ride for a long commute. But he was riding his bike instead of driving and that was good for him too.

The truth is that some people can ride bikes for a considerable commute without too many problems. They can also afford to have an expensive bike. Others are just doing the best they can. But others can't do it for many reasons. Many offices are not equipped with showers and would you really want your Dentist, for example, smelling like he had just ridden 10 miles on a bike while working in your mouth?

Others have medical problems such as asthma which make bike riding for any distance a problem.

Others need to dress professionally, carry equipment or other work related gear, or go to several different destinations for work each day.

I am definitely in favor of people riding bikes to work when they can. Thank you to those that do. But I do not like it when these individuals have the attitude "if I can do it so can everyone".

Bike riding, car pooling and walking are only alternatives for some. For those that can't, we have to fix the public transportation issue for those who commute longer distances, particularly for those who cross the Bay or come from the Coast.

6 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 31, 2018 at 9:55 pm

If I ever considered riding a bike on the streets today forget it. People in cars stop in the bike lane to read their phones, continual building going on with trucks on the street. An attempt to create bike lanes gets preempted by continual usurpation of the street space. And now the Wave people appearing 10 cars at a time and they are angry as to why they are there. The increase of population either by work or residence is removing the amenities that we put in place to make our lives easier. Certain areas are safe - like SU campus, but PA in general is growing too fast to accommodate the creation of the bike coalition taking over. And did someone mention putting a bike lane on University? That would be a giant downer for all of the restaurants. I could barely park to try out the new burger joint. Keep the bike lanes off the main car transportation streets used for visitors on game days, etc. It does not help to have the visitors roaming the streets they are unfamiliar with.

4 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 2, 2018 at 8:08 am

Reading the dilemma on the Southgate parking it points out that the RV's on ECR are controlled by the state - not the city - ECR is a state controlled street. So the RV's are preempting the students and people using the campus and the people who work in the area. Who is responsible for negotiating this dilemma with the local authorities? The more I read on this the worst it gets. And Mountain View is no better off with human waste being dumped in the sewers. Can someone please point to who is responsible for the dilemma in the first place and who is directly responsible for resolving it. Students, workers get top priority in this city.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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